The Christian Science Monitor : 2020-12-07

17 : 17 : 17


PEOPLE MAKING A DIFFERENCE scribes her son as very independen­t. “And like any teenager he does not like mom or dad asking him too many questions,” she wrote, punctuatin­g that with a smiley face emoji, in an email to the Monitor. During middle school, Samvit taught himself the programmin­g language Python after school. He has since picked up Java, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript through school and other training. If others consider the field purely technical, he sees it more in terms of creativity. Ms. Agarwal encourages this togetherne­ss. She acknowledg­es her son’s work ethic, but wishes he’d slow down. Samvit has been juggling senior year and the nonprofit and a comp sci class at Princeton University, since he exhausted course offerings at his public high school. He keeps other coding-related passion projects spinning on the side. Ms. Agarwal says her son is committed to whatever he takes on: “I’ve sometimes seen him up till almost 2 in the night ...” “No, that’s like very rare,” Samvit counters from the couch. He claims his max is midnight. Samvit says his desire to pay it forward is partly influenced by his Hindu background: “That’s kind of something that I guess I’ve been brought up with – that idea of good karma, of giving back to the community.” Each family member wears red mauli thread around a wrist: a reminder of faith and invitation for blessings. Tailor-made lessons “If I have an idea, I can actually form it in front of me through code,” he says in his rapidfire way, as if typing out his thoughts. “I think that’s pretty amazing.” After Samvit started winning hackathons, Ms. Agarwal, his proud mom, began reaching out to friends in the neighborho­od and offering Samvit’s help with their kids’ computer science projects. He says the idea for the nonprofit brewed over time as he began teaching younger peers. First he identified a need: tailor-made lessons for the individual. Available online resources and group-lesson formats “weren’t really structured to fit every individual,” he says. Drawing on his “comp sci” courses at school, he started developing curricula focused on one-on-one tutorials for kids 10 to 16. Students choose whether they want to start studying Python or Java. Though the coding lessons are preplanned, instructor­s adjust to each learner’s speed. “The entire idea is to make it as flexible or as adaptable to each student as possible,” Samvit says. He recruited fellow high schoolers to teach and registered the nonprofit with the state of New Jersey in autumn 2018. Without a budget, Samvit and his fellow instructor­s began tutoring at local libraries. An adult had to chaperone and “make sure they put the tables and chairs back,” says Ms. Agarwal. (After countless parent-chauffeure­d rides to these sessions, the nonprofit president recently earned his driver’s license.) Classes moved remote during the pandemic on the virtual platform Discord, COURTESY OF SAMVIT AGARWAL FREE TUTORING: Samvit Agarwal has organized 250 teen volunteers who have taught 300 young people in need of computer training. Here, he helps a student at the Plainsboro Public Library in New Jersey, December 2019. which allows for breakout rooms. Since the instructor­s themselves are still in high school, once the school year began, all tutoring moved to weekend sessions. CS Remastered is seeking funding, mainly to buy its most disadvanta­ged students laptops for lessons. It’s also adding partners, including nonprofits Girls Who Code and HomeFront NJ, which works to curb homelessne­ss and for whom Samvit’s team has offered lessons. CS Remastered has opened four chapters Tutors receive as much as they give CS Remastered has benefited students and tutors alike. Amisha Singh, a high school senior who started as one of CS Remastered’s tutors this summer and doubles as the media manager, is part of the nonprofit’s effort to involve more young women. “I think in general young women aren’t made to feel like they could be good at STEM or computer science,” Amisha says. But imparting her knowledge through tutoring, she adds, “has helped me get over my impostor syndrome. ... It’s made me more confident in my abilities.” Parents of the program’s students see that confidence shine through to their own kids. The receptivit­y generated by the peer-to-peer coaching, says Aarav’s dad, Maneesh Khatri, is the program’s strength. “With kids, they’ll listen to others more than their parents,” says the software engineer. Jyotima Prasad – a life coach whose son and daughter both have studied with Samvit – also heaps praise on the model. “I always feel that giving back and volunteeri­ng, it always takes a very good heart, compassion­ate heart, and going beyond yourself,” she says. “Those kinds of qualities in such a young kid ... it’s a very good thing. “If I have an idea, I can actually form it in front of me through code. I think that’s pretty amazing.” – Samvit Agarwal, teen founder in the U.S., one in India, and one in China. “We thought if it’s working here, it definitely does have the prospect to work in a lot of other places across the world,” says the Gen Z founder. On an October evening, fall leaves cast a golden glow through the windows of the Agarwals’ living room, where they’ve gathered for a socially distanced interview. After virtual work and school days, Samvit and his parents usually convene for dinner, prayer, and recently movies from the ’90s. r THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY | DECEMBER 7, 2020 17 PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTE­D BY PRESSREADE­R PressReade­ +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW